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Implementation of online auction and RFQ platform for Iron & steel products including detailed portfolio management

Initiating a project from scratch and completing it with perfection is challenging. But getting involved in a project midway, with minimal documentation and in limited time is a completely different challenge. Throughout this project, our team demonstrated skill, commitment and technical expertise as they were able to complete the project in stipulated timeline and budget, even though they faced an uphill battle in assimilating the existing codebase and workflow, especially without any proper documentation.

  • INDUSTRY
    Construction & Manufacturing
  • TARGET COUNTRY
    Middle East
  • ENGAGEMENT
    Fixed Scope, ongoing maintenance

Tech Stack

Drupal 8/9
Apache SOLR
Bitbucket
Amazon AWS

Service Provided

Extensive portfolio management functionality
Online auction implementation
Products and RFQ management
UI/UX development
Performance optimization

The code quality is high, well organised, and easy to follow and understand. I really appreciate how quickly they move because they allow us to save time. The end product was exactly what we wanted.

Ayoob E.

Managing Director

Background

The portal is a marketplace for Iron and Steel products - to connect sellers and buyers together. The goal of the website is to bridge the gap between sellers and buyers of iron and steel products in micro (C2C) or macro (B2B) scales. Service Providers register on the site and can create Products, Auctions, RFQs, Tender Sales. There are various intricate interactions between these three components, and a detailed membership module delegating permissions based on membership levels. Also the site needed to be fully bi lingual, in Farsi (RTL) and English. This is Phase I of the project which we completed. There will be 3 more phases, which we shall start working on, which includes email / SMS based notification alert and custom subscription creation, full blown E-commerce and marketplace feature and Social Media Integration. All these considerations needed to be kept in mind while building the structure and the background work.

Why & how we were chosen?

The client reached out to us with a partially built site, as their development team was not able to complete the remaining work due to some issues. The client was looking for a development team to pick up the development, instead of building from scratch. The client had a limited timeline, as they were already behind schedule and they planned to launch the site in one of the largest construction and manufacturing expos in the country. They reached out to a number of teams, but none were keep to pick up on an existing codebase. Our team, however, were up for the challenge. We did a detailed discovery workshop, and laid down a clear development plan that included enough time for code review and reverse engineering.

Challenges

The main challenge of the project was the the fact that we needed to pick up and work on a half built set up. The existing development team also left behind minimum documentation and we needed to reverse engineer a lot of the features in order to deconstruct the working. The goal of the project was to create a marketplace for Iron and Steel products. The Service Providers will be able to register, and create their profile. Once done, they can create products, RFQs, Auctions and Tender Sales. Buyers can come and search these, and contact the sellers directory through call/chat. If they need to place the bids on the RFQs or Auctions, they need to create an account in the site. The sellers will need to subscribe to membership levels and based on that, they would have certain access to certain features of the site.

Solution Design

The major requirements of the site can be mainly grouped into the following:

User Account Creation & Registration Mechanism

Users should be able to create accounts. We had to replace the email based registration system to a phone number based registration system. The users need to add their phone numbers and OTP will be sent to them. Once they add in the OTP, they will be asked to set their password and get in. To change the password also, they need to add in Phone Number and validate the OTP. We used Twillio as OTP service for the supported countries, and used a private SMS service for Iran, which the client preferred. Once in, users can set their profile data and can use start to create products and other entities.

Products

This is the main building block of the other entities - RFQs, Tender Sales and Auctions. User needs to add at least one product before they can create other entities. The product had a huge number of specification fields, and they needed to organised as cleanly as possible. We employed Field Collection, Field Collection tables and host of other modules for this, in total we had around 46 fields to be created in the product content type itself. We also employed google Maps and reverse geocoding for the Load Location field.

RFQs

Sellers could then, once they had added some products, create RFQs or Request for Quotes. This had a complicated feature of either choosing a product, or be able to custom product right in that content type, which needed to be multivalued. Main complication was that the number of fields were huge, around 46. We solved this problem using Inline Entity form and Field Collection AJAX modules. The RFQs also had an end date, and users could bid on the RFQ till the end date. The RFQ bid feature was implemented using the comments entity on the RFQ node and a few custom tables to track pricing.

Auctions

The Auction feature had all the features of normal auction. Sellers could create auction and mention the products he wants to auction (that the seller created). He would also mention an end date of the auction and a base price. The users will then bid on the auction. This bid feature was fully custom implemented, and users can only bid an amount that is greater than the last bid. At the end of the timeframe, the user with highest bid amount will be the winner.

Membership Feature

We used membership Entity as the base for this feature and then extended the work through our custom modules. The membership Entity module declares everything through Entity API making it very much extendible. We implemented additional permission checks and associated roles to award and revoke membership. Also, the membership page is integrated to registration. As user sets their password, they are taken to membership page, asking them if they would subscribe. They have the option to skip this step though.

Private Chat

The chat feature was implemented using the Drupalchat module. We used the code and forked the module to add our necessary customisations. Need to heavily customise it, but nevertheless the base work has been very helpful and time saver. In Phase II plan is to use nodejs and the chat driver, right now it's using ajax polling method.

Outcome

The project was extremely complicated. It had lots of layers and main challenge was to keep it steering ahead without creating logical blobs for us. The architecture needed to be very robust to be able to handle the features of not just this phase, but also upcoming 3 Phases, which the client has already briefed us beforehand. We did careful planning and divided the tasks into sprints. Each and every architectural decision was carefully evaluated ensuring it will play well long term and it will not conflict with a future solution that we need to implement. Eventually all turned out to be good, and the client was extremely happy with the functionalities, backend and overall communication and responsiveness of out team. The project was a success! Time to get moving with the rest of the phases which we are already into.

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Work only with scalable technologies

The user can also earn referrals by introducing others to this platform, by providing them with his/her unique referral link. Moreover, product is underwritten by a portfolio of property assets generating an income and ensuring the future development and maintenance of the platform.

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